“That year it was 104 degrees for 27 days. The skies were full of rain that never fell. One night there was a crumpled body on the floor. It was my mother’s. She came back to life, but I never forgave her.”
So begins Donna Hunt’s poem, “Scrapbook,” which encapsulates the energy and sense of urgency that run throughout Gordon Square Review’s inaugural issue. Whether it’s a poem like “Scrapbook” or a short story like “Beasts Headed Home from the Party” by Hannah Lackoff (“We are young, we are wild, we are richer than we know”), our first issue glimmers with artful language, startling content, and innovative form. Watching this issue take shape confirmed that there’s not only room for a new online journal like Gordon Square Review, but that the depth of talent, both here in Northeast Ohio and beyond, demands it.
When Literary Cleveland Director Lee Chilcote first approached me with the idea of starting a journal, I was enthusiastic even though I knew it would be an extraordinary undertaking. Launching a journal requires countless hours spent on design, fundraising, promotion, and crafting an editorial vision—not to mention combing through hundreds upon hundreds of submissions. Now that our first issue is hot off the (online) press and we can share our contributors’ fantastic writing, I couldn’t be more grateful that Lee invited me to be a part of Gordon Square Review.
Take Kristine Langley Mahler’s “16 on College Weekends,” the first piece we accepted for publication. The language in this erasure piece originates from an etiquette book published in 1963, language that Langley Mahler expertly weaves into a new work of prose. Or consider the poem “Memory” by Mary Weems, which offers a rumination on the slippery nature of loss (“You don’t know what / memory is until you lose some”). In these pieces and so many more, the work in Gordon Square Review astonishes, surprises, and enthralls.
Our inaugural contest, which was open to Northeast Ohio writers, was no different. The prose winner, “The Difference Between Me and Paige Pendleton” by Shannon Ready, is a clever, quirky, voice-driven story about a young girl shrewdly acknowledging her place in the world and the realities of what she lacks. The poetry winner, Mimi Plevin-Foust’s “On the Anniversary of the Kent State Shootings,” is a spare, affecting poem that captures the long-echoing repercussions of a national tragedy. These winners—together with our finalists as well as the many, may strong entries we received—speak to the remarkable literary ability here in Northeast Ohio.
We’re proud to spotlight additional Northeast Ohio writers in this issue—Stephanie Choi, Donna Hunt, Joe Kapitan, Phyllis Peterson Levine, William Solden, and Mary Weems. We’re also excited about our editorial mentorship program, an initiative that provides direct, one-on-one feedback and revision assistance for select writers. In this issue, Poetry Editor Ali McClain worked with Stephanie Choi, Prose Editor Matt Weinkam worked with Carol Pang, and I worked with Nan Wigington. After reading their pieces, be sure to check out our accompanying editor and contributor essays detailing the revision process.
This issue would not be possible without the support and vision of Literary Cleveland Director Lee Chilcote, who coaxed Gordon Square Review along from nascent idea to a full-fledged online journal that drew waves of submissions from around the world. As Prose Editor, Matt Weinkam lent his discerning eye and impeccable taste, and Poetry Editor Ali McClain, who has already given so much to the Cleveland community with her teaching and mentoring, has now given even more through her astute editing here at Gordon Square Review. I’m also grateful to our intern, Rob Daniels, for all his excellent work on this issue; Kris Williams of Tiny Desk Design for her lovely designs; and the Literary Cleveland Board of Directors. Finally, I could not be prouder that our first issue features the artwork of no other than renowned Cleveland artist Chris Pekoc.
Most of all, I’d like to thank all the writers who made our jobs feel fulfilling and worthwhile. The toughest part of editing a literary journal is that one must inevitably turn down the majority of submitted work—even very, very strong work. To the writers who trusted us with their stories, essays, and poems, I encourage you to submit again during our next reading period. The world needs your work, and while a literary acceptance is admittedly more often the exception rather than the rule, persistence is the only path forward. I encourage you to keep writing, keep submitting, and keep striving.
We hope you enjoy our first issue of Gordon Square Review. Here’s to many more!
Laura Maylene Walter Editor-in-Chief
Laura Maylene Walter
Laura Maylene Walter is a writer and editor in Cleveland. Her work has appeared in Poets & Writers, TheSun, Kenyon Review, Ninth Letter, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She was a Tin House Writers’ Workshop Scholar, the recipient of the Ohioana Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant, and a past Fiction Editor of Mid-American Review. Her debut story collection, Living Arrangements (BkMk Press), won the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize, a national gold IPPY, and a Foreword Book of the Year Award. Laura holds an MFA from Bowling Green State University, is a contributing editor for Neutrons/Protons and Cherry Tree, teaches workshops for Literary Cleveland, blogs for the Kenyon Review, and works for Cleveland Public Library. She is no stranger to rejection.